Deborah’s Blog: Breaking Ground (literally) – August 2017

It’s been a very exciting week – works for Learning Plaza 2 have started!

Learning Plaza 2
We’ve started off on site by doing site clearance. This means collecting rubbish, removing loose stones and earth, digging out tree roots and generally flattening the ground. I won’t lie, it’s tough work. Back in the UK, this would probably be done using diggers but in Zambia, where equipment is expensive and labour is cheap, tasks like this are carried out by hand with picks, shovels and wheelbarrows. Previously, the trainees have spent the better part of their time learning brickwork and blockwork, so it’s a somewhat gruelling introduction to what will be expected of them in the industry.

At the moment, we have 6 trainees gaining experience on the construction for Learning Plaza 2. Between them they come from 4 different tribes which means they speak 4 different languages. I think I have some work to do….

On a sombre note, I find that working directly with the trainees is triggering reflection. To date, my contact with them has been limited, but now I’m working with the same group on a regular basis and getting to know more about their lives. I find myself very aware of how little some people have. They live from day to day uncertain where next month’s or even next week’s income will come from. I have so much in my life and all my anxieties (“did I say the right thing in that meeting?”, “will my UK friends miss me on their next outing for pie?”, “how soon will I be able to watch series 7 of Game of Thrones?!”) seem feeble in comparison. Being on the ground is one of the main reasons why I applied to work with Build It; it serves to remind me to consider others; memory and media is never as powerful as real life.

Passing on the enthusiasm for construction
I’ve also been joined on site by an intern, Tisa. Tisa is midway through a university degree in architecture, and so is joining me to get some construction experience during her summer break. I’m really glad that we’re able to help out – I have fantastic memories of getting on site when I was still studying, and I can honestly say that the excitement of seeing drawings come to life is why I continued as a structural engineer. We seem to have managed to instil a similar level of excitement in her already!

Don’t waste the waste
Thank you to Grace (BII Training Manager) for coming up with that slogan. My waste management plan is slowly coming into effect at the Centre. Recycling is part of this plan and this is a relatively rare concept in Zambia. Uptake is slow but improving (indeed one member of staff has already gone so far as to fish through the rubbish bin to find plastic bottles!) I took a whole pile of papers to an NGO called Apters yesterday – Apters (or “Alternative Paper Technology”) use cardboard and paper to make furniture to help disabled children. It’s great that we can support the planet and other charities at the same time. I’ve also got a plan for plastic bottles, but I’m going to leave you in suspense about that for a while longer.

Before you go…
….. what do you think of my site signage? I can now add (clumsy) graphic designer to my job description.

And lastly, you should know that we’re on Day 123 without rain. At the office we have a fabulous outside meeting table, but I’m still getting used to the fact that I can organise meetings here in advance without the need for a wet weather contingency plan!